The Commish Online                                                                                
Interleague:  Save it or Scrap it?
June 23, 2003

Bunker's feeling a little ornery, which can mean plenty of things.  In this case, it's the interleague games that were just played.  If there's one thing Bunker doesn't like, it's people messing with his traditions.  Dewey weighs in on the other side, finding growth in the game through change.  Let's jump in on the argument.

This week's topic:
Interleague games:  save it or scrap it?

Dewey: Save it!  It's the middle of June and attendance is up all over thanks to these games.

Bunker: The game of baseball should not be messed with just to boost some losing teams' revenues for a couple weeks.  Keep the game pure.  Stop paying the players so much if you want to control your profits, but that's another story.

D: You can't deny the added excitement of the Mets playing the Yankees and the Cubs playing the White Sox.

B: What about a Pittsburgh - Tampa Bay matchup?  There's no point to 90 percent of these games, and the other 10 percent don't make up for the lost tradition.

D: Enough with tradition.  Baseball evolves with the times.  There used to be 2 divisions, then 4, now 6.  There are 50 percent more teams than there were 40 years ago and Major League Baseball draws from the best players in the world now, not just the best in America's backyards.  The game evolves and you can't stop it.

B: I don't have a problem with the game changing with the times if the reasons for it are justified.  There were more cities that could support a club, so expansion occured, although now there's a few too many teams, but that's another story.  Interleague play serves no justifiable purpose other than to cater to fans and make more money for the owners.

D: I agree with you there, but I don't see what's wrong with that.  It's a game, and it's meant to be enjoyed by the fans!  If something adds enjoyment for the fans and puts more money in the owners' pocketbooks so they can stay competitive, why wouldn't you do it?

B: Because that's a short term answer.  What works for a few years gets old after a while.  Then you're stuck with 5,000 fans at those Pirates - DRays games.  Baseball is here for the long run, so the decisions must be made for the long run as well.  Short term answers lead to constant changes which hurts the game in the long run.  The major lure of baseball is its consistency over the years.  When you start messing with that, the history of the game becomes less applicable to today, and people become less interested as a whole.

D: I wouldn't call interleague play a short term answer.  We're seven years in, and the interest in Cubs - Sox, Yanks - Mets, and other rivalries has never been stronger.  Why?  Because now the rivalries have some history to them.  Like you said, baseball fans love their history and, as interleague play continues, fans will love to look back on previous matchups between rivals.  Yes, there will always be some uninteresting matchups, but if the Pirates weren't playing the Devil Rays, they would be playing the Padres instead, and nobody outside of Pittsburgh or San Diego would care about that.

B: I still stay interleague play messes with tradition.  When you mess with something as fundamental as letting World Series matchups occur in the regular season, you are hurting the game, not helping it, because it diminishes the importance and mystique of the postseason.

D: No it doesn't.  It encourages conversation about matchups earlier in the year.  If the Braves and Red Sox meet in the World Series, their regular season matchup will be a hot topic of conversation before the series starts.  It can stimulate debate and generate a decent buzz before and during the series.

B: Not as much as the potential to see things like Nomar against Smoltz for the first time, or Pedro against Chipper, or the former Boston Braves in Fenway, etc. etc.

D: That's your opinion, but I enjoy a little history with my matchups.  It takes away the awkwardness of the first time and provides more focus to the game itself, which is really the idea behind good, entertaining baseball.  You can have your first time October matchups.  I'll be watching the Cubs play the White Sox in June along with the rest of the city!

The Commish's verdict:  Dewey
This was the toughest decision yet because interleague play is such a hotly contested topic.  Bunker makes some good points, especially about the sacredness of World Series matchups, but Dewey summed it up best when he said it's a game for the fans and interleague play stirs excitement.  It provides competition between the leagues and allows the best of both leagues to face each other, something the fans want to see.  It's our game and intended for our enjoyment, and I think Bunker let the idea slip away from him a bit.